HSI special agents arrested Jose Fernando Rodriguez-Vargas, of Carolina, after they received information from the Puerto Rico Police Department regarding Rodriguez-Vargas’s attempt to use his cellular telephone to clandestinely take photographs of a 14-year-old girl at a local supermarket. According to the criminal complaint, Rodriguez-Vargas consented to a search of his cellular telephone during which HSI special agents discovered approximately 15 images depicting child pornography.
"Child exploitation cases are on the rise and parents should be aware of this as they are the first line of defense against child predators," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "As I have always said, HSI will continue to be committed to identifying and apprehending individuals who sexually exploit the most vulnerable segment of our society. Have no doubt, we will go after you, arrest you and prosecute you."
Rodriguez-Vargas had his initial hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Camille Velez-Rive, who set his bail hearing for March 6. He was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo awaiting the outcome of his case.
In June 2011, in response to the need for an island-wide approach to fighting the escalation of predatory crimes against children, HSI San Juan formed the Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF).
Through PRCACTF, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies work together with local and state government agencies to effectively pool their resources and jointly investigate all crimes against children in Puerto Rico. Through the task force, law enforcement officers are able to share ideas, leads and evidence, as well as investigative and forensic tools to ensure the most successful prosecutions possible. As such, PRCACTF allows law enforcement to speak with one unified voice in defense of the children of Puerto Rico.
The investigation is part of HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 10,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2013, more than 2,000 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.